Career Runnings, you ask? This is a blog about my insights around careers, usually taken from my personal experiences as a professional, a career counselor, a husband, a dad, and yes, a runner. My career has consisted of a few good runs and a few bad runs. Some times it has felt like a sprint, other times it has been just part of a long career marathon. So, I’ve decided to call my career insights my “career runnings.”
I’ve come to believe that a long, healthy career is more like running a marathon, than a series of sprints. Running a marathon starts with a great deal of preparation and forethought. Then it moves into getting the fundamentals right. Then, bang, it starts out with a burst and in just minutes, the starting line is a blur and the finish line is nowhere in sight. Then a good run settles in. Maybe you hit the first big hill, maybe you coast some. Sometimes you hit painful spots. Sometimes the scenery is beautiful. In a good marathon, like a good career, you have your supporters, and you also have lots of interesting people beside you, many for just a short time.
So, you get the analogy. Since I haven’t finished my career yet, I can’t carry the analogy to conclusion, but I’ll just imagine the feeling of elation I’ll have when its done. (And full disclosure: I’m not a marathon runner, just a runner. My longest run is a half marathon, but it gives me enough fodder to use the analogy.)
I’m on the second, maybe third leg of my career marathon already (Is there an end in sight, you ask? How many legs are there? I suspect given the improved life expectancies, I’ll be capable of working until 70. So, that suggests several more legs.). I’ve definitely got more miles ahead, but I’m feeling great. My career marathon so far has taken me from a Frito-Lay route truck in Mississippi to the top of Bukit Timah in Singapore with Nabisco to my latest stop at the foot of the Blue Ridge here in Charlottesville, Virginia. Stops along the way have included marketing roles at General Foods and Oscar Mayer and general manager roles at Nabisco. I even spent a year helping define the D&B brand for D&B. In 2003, I had the opportunity to take my marketing skills to my alma mater, The University of Virginia Darden School of Business. Instead of marketing Oscar Mayer wieners, I’m marketing Darden students (you wouldn’t believe the similarities).
So what’s on my race day t-shirt, what’s my essence, what’s my brand? What is it that will help me decide which next career to pursue? For me, it is that I’m a builder and brander. Builder is easy: I get my greatest satisfaction creating, building, growing, turning around, challenging the status quo. I’ve had a couple of staff positions along the way, and I’ve learned from them, but I wasn’t great at them. I’m a runner—I need to run things. I am also passionate about mentoring, challenging, and helping people find the way. It’s part of building. But I’m also a brander—not in the negative sense of the word (to brand something), but in the marketing sense of the word: to market by branding. I like building businesses by building brands. My work the past seven years has been about building the Darden brand and individual student brands. That’s why I’ve enjoyed career development—I get great satisfaction out of working with a student, helping them articulate their own brand and breakthrough in the marketplace.
My next race? I need to be building and branding. I also need to be leaving a legacy. My next race will be keep me on course. And my hope is this blog will help you, either in today’s race or in a life of career runnings.